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      The Role of Aerobic Fitness in Cortical Thickness and Mathematics Achievement in Preadolescent Children


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          Growing evidence suggests that aerobic fitness benefits the brain and cognition during childhood. The present study is the first to explore cortical brain structure of higher fit and lower fit 9- and 10-year-old children, and how aerobic fitness and cortical thickness relate to academic achievement. We demonstrate that higher fit children (>70th percentile VO 2max) showed decreased gray matter thickness in superior frontal cortex, superior temporal areas, and lateral occipital cortex, coupled with better mathematics achievement, compared to lower fit children (<30th percentile VO 2max). Furthermore, cortical gray matter thinning in anterior and superior frontal areas was associated with superior arithmetic performance. Together, these data add to our knowledge of the biological markers of school achievement, particularly mathematics achievement, and raise the possibility that individual differences in aerobic fitness play an important role in cortical gray matter thinning during brain maturation. The establishment of predictors of academic performance is key to helping educators focus on interventions to maximize learning and success across the lifespan.

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          Most cited references 35

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          Automatically Parcellating the Human Cerebral Cortex

           B Fischl (2004)
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            Improved Localizadon of Cortical Activity by Combining EEG and MEG with MRI Cortical Surface Reconstruction: A Linear Approach.

            Abstract We describe a comprehensive linear approach to the problem of imaging brain activity with high temporal as well as spatial resolution based on combining EEG and MEG data with anatomical constraints derived from MRI images. The "inverse problem" of estimating the distribution of dipole strengths over the cortical surface is highly underdetermined, even given closely spaced EEG and MEG recordings. We have obtained much better solutions to this problem by explicitly incorporating both local cortical orientation as well as spatial covariance of sources and sensors into our formulation. An explicit polygonal model of the cortical manifold is first constructed as follows: (1) slice data in three orthogonal planes of section (needle-shaped voxels) are combined with a linear deblurring technique to make a single high-resolution 3-D image (cubic voxels), (2) the image is recursively flood-filled to determine the topology of the gray-white matter border, and (3) the resulting continuous surface is refined by relaxing it against the original 3-D gray-scale image using a deformable template method, which is also used to computationally flatten the cortex for easier viewing. The explicit solution to an error minimization formulation of an optimal inverse linear operator (for a particular cortical manifold, sensor placement, noise and prior source covariance) gives rise to a compact expression that is practically computable for hundreds of sensors and thousands of sources. The inverse solution can then be weighted for a particular (averaged) event using the sensor covariance for that event. Model studies suggest that we may be able to localize multiple cortical sources with spatial resolution as good as PET with this technique, while retaining a much finer grained picture of activity over time.
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              Executive functioning as a predictor of children's mathematics ability: inhibition, switching, and working memory.

              Children's mathematical skills were considered in relation to executive functions. Using multiple measures--including the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task (WCST), dual-task performance, Stroop task, and counting span-it was found that mathematical ability was significantly correlated with all measures of executive functioning, with the exception of dual-task performance. Furthermore, regression analyses revealed that each executive function measure predicted unique variance in mathematics ability. These results are discussed in terms of a central executive with diverse functions (Shallice & Burgess, 1996) and with recent evidence from Miyake, et al. (2000) showing the unity and diversity among executive functions. It is proposed that the particular difficulties for children of lower mathematical ability are lack of inhibition and poor working memory, which result in problems with switching and evaluation of new strategies for dealing with a particular task. The practical and theoretical implications of these results are discussed, along with suggestions for task changes and longitudinal studies that would clarify theoretical and developmental issues related to executive functioning.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                12 August 2015
                : 10
                : 8
                [1 ]Beckman Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, United States of America
                [2 ]Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois, United States of America
                [3 ]Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America
                [4 ]Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, United States of America
                [5 ]Department of Kinesiology & Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, United States of America
                University of Montreal, CANADA
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: LCH KIE MP CH LR AK. Performed the experiments: LCH MP LR CH AK. Analyzed the data: LCH MP LR. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: LCH KIE CK MK MP LR CH AK. Wrote the paper: LCH KIE CH AK.


                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

                Page count
                Figures: 2, Tables: 3, Pages: 11
                Funding was provided by grants from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institute of Health to Arthur Kramer (RO1 AG25032 and R37 AG025667) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01 HD055352) to Charles Hillman. Kirk Erickson was supported by the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R01 DK095172). Matthew Pontifex was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R21 HD078566). Lauren Raine was supported by the National Institute for Agriculture under the Illinois Transdisciplinary Obesity Prevention Program grant (2011-67001-30101) to the Division of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois.
                Research Article
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